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NCJ Number: 99529 Find in a Library
Title: Certainty of Punishment and Sentence Mitigation in Plea Behavior
Journal: Justice Quarterly  Volume:2  Issue:3  Dated:(September 1985)  Pages:363-383
Author(s): B R McCarthy; C A Lindquist
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 21
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Based on 560 indictments drawn from the Tenth Judicial Circuit in Jefferson County, Ala., during 1977-79, this examination of the relationship between plea bargaining behavior and sentencing benefits failed to support the common assumption that mitigation of sentence severity is a primary factor underlying defendant decisions to plead guilty.
Abstract: The sample of 560 indictments led to 453 convictions. It contained 140 murder indictments (112 convictions), 54 rape indictments (33 convictions), 70 aggravated assault indictments (48 convictions), and 296 robbery indictments (260 convictions). Of these defendants, 43 percent pleaded not guilty and of those persons, 43 percent avoided conviction. Type of plea, however, varied considerably by offense charged. For example, robbery defendants were most likely to plead guilty and murder defendants least likely to offer a guilty plea. Rape and assault defendants appeared to achieve the greatest benefits by refraining from guilty pleas. Regarding assault, it is interesting to note that a plea of not guilty was resolved by a decision not to prosecute in over one-third of the cases. Some defendants, notably robbers, frequently plead guilty in the relative absence of significant benefits. Others, notably alleged murderers, plead not guilty even though significant benefits are available for guilty pleaders. Tables, 7 footnotes, and over 40 references are provided.
Index Term(s): Murder; Plea negotiations; Rape; Robbery; Sentencing/Sanctions
Note: Revised version of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Chicago, 1984.
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